This Day (Love on Its Last Leg Edition)

Published:May 26, 2011 by Brendan Wolfe

On this day in 1863, Elizabeth McKay Campbell Brown was married at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond. That the groom—a newly one-legged Confederate general named Richard Stoddert Ewell—was his bride’s first cousin, that he was nicknamed “Old Bald Head,” or that one of his contemporaries attested to his being “blisteringly profane” mattered not a tittle. All agreed it was a beautiful ceremony. Baldy donned his best uniform while Lizinka, as she was called, wore gray satin.

A Catholic priest close to the couple remarked that Lizinka was “a lady of more than ordinary intellectual powers.” Born in Saint Petersburg the daughter of an American diplomat, she grew up in Nashville and in 1839 wed another American diplomat, James Percy Brown. She and Mr. Brown lived in Paris and had three children before he killed himself in 1844. Back home, Lizinka inherited a good deal of land, but when the Confederates lost Nashville in 1862, she was forced to flee to Virginia.

Not long after she arrived, Cousin Dick fell wounded in battle. Although he lost the one leg, Lizinka personally nursed him back to health. When they married, however, she insisted on a prenuptial agreement that kept their property separate. That’s because anything belonging to Ewell, a Confederate officer, was subject to seizure by the United States government (see, for example, the Lees and their beloved Arlington). Like the priest said: more than ordinary intellectual powers. Anyway, having survived the war, Old Bald Head hopped with his bride back to her Tennessee estates and there, in 1872, the both of them contracted the same upper respiratory infection. Sadly, but romantically, they died within three days of one another.

IMAGE: The Wedding Morning (1892) by John Henry Frederick Bacon